No Use Crying Over Spilt Blood

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Portal Keepers Book 2 (The sequel to 'Would You Like Brains With That?').
Danira travels back to the Realm of the Undead to stop humans being used as blood-slaves.

Cover by Zillah Designs.

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25. Taxes and Payment Options

 

      The next day I heard something that I thought I would never hear; Ferriday swearing.

      I left a startled Kelsey in the kitchen and followed the stream of curses to the gallery where Ferriday was standing, a piece of parchment held in his hands.

      “Ferriday, what’s wrong?”

      His grey eyes were angry as he handed me the parchment. I scanned the writing. The Vampire Lords were introducing a tax on blood-slaves. I didn’t know why Ferriday was so worked up until I saw how much it cost for a blood-slave that was less than ten years old.

      Ferriday shook his head grimly and took the parchment from me. “I can’t afford to pay taxes for all three of you.”

      My eyes widened in shock. Then taking a deep breath I said. “Sell me. You have to keep Kelsey, and Aidan was your first blood-slave, so sell me.”

      “You’re too important, Danira.”

      “Get Lord Harlin to buy me.”

      I had no doubt that he would be more than willing to take me off Ferriday’s hands.

      Ferriday sighed. “I would but he has left the Castle on business.”

      How did Ferriday know that?

      Seeing my curiosity, he told me. “We have become business partners and he is going to Bloodlust to look at some antiques we have been contacted about.”

      “Sell me to someone else then. I don’t care.” I begged. “But please keep Kelsey.”

      Ferriday looked torn. “I would Danira, believe me I would if I could, but you saw for yourself how outrageous her tax is. She costs triple what it will cost for both you and Aidan. I simply cannot afford it, I’m sorry.”

      I felt devastated. There was no way I could let Ferriday sell Kelsey. She was only a child. I dreaded to imagine the way a vampire such as Nevrac would treat her.

      “There has to be something.” I said becoming desperate.  

      Ferriday simply shook his head and walked away. I stared after him, my hands clenched into fists. There had to be something I could do. I racked my brain as I paced up and down the gallery. I had no money and no possessions other than the clothes Ferriday had bought me, and Mireille’s emerald that Luca had given to me. My eyes grew wide and relief flooded through me. That was the answer, the emerald! Luca would be upset that I had sold it, but surely he would understand.

      I rushed through the mansion and grabbed one of Ferriday’s many capes that lay around. Throwing it on, I crept out of the front door before running down the path.

      On the bottom of the piece of parchment had been the name of the vampire that the Vampire Lords had placed in charge of the taxes, as well as his address. His office was near the alpine lodge that was the auction house.

      I stopped once I reached the front of the bland building that contained the office of Axel Günter, head taxman for the greedy Vampire Lords. Suddenly full of nerves I chewed my lip. Then the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and a chill of unease filled me.

      Someone was watching me.

      I gazed around, my palms sweating. There was no one else in the street but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.

      I was wary as I returned my attention to the front door of the office building. Forcing myself to step forwards I opened the door and went inside. The building was cold, but I felt myself relax as I walked down the bare hallway. I checked all the doors that I passed to see if one of them led to Axel’s office. His office turned out to be the one at the end of the hallway and I hovered outside it, willing myself to build up the courage to knock on the door that was bare except for a brass nameplate and a door handle.

      Think of Kelsey. I told myself firmly. You’re doing this for her.

      I knocked on the door, timidly at first, but then with more confidence.

      “Enter,”

      Opening the door I stepped inside Axel’s office. It was wooden panelled and apart from a large desk that was nearly as wide as the room, there were only two chairs, a lamp and one bookcase. Axel was sat behind the paper covered desk and glanced up when I entered the room. He was quite short for a vampire, and was dressed in a waistcoat, shirt and trousers, with the usual vampire boots. His cape was thrown over the back of his chair. Axel Günter had startling blue eyes and black hair which was pulled back into a ponytail.

      I removed my hood and his eyes narrowed at the sight of my collar. “A human... what do you want?” he demanded, leaning back in his chair.

      “I was hoping to strike a deal.” I told him, holding his gaze so that he knew I meant business. “My master is Ferriday.”

      “Mister Ferriday?” Axel asked, tearing his eyes away from me so that he could riffle through a pile of papers at the edge of his desk. “You are one of the three blood-slaves that he has bought?”

      “Yes, however my master cannot afford to keep us all due to the new tax.”

      He raised an eyebrow. “So you were hoping to make a deal with me? Did your master send you? Is it you that he is planning to sell?”

      “My master didn’t send me. He wants to sell one of the other slaves. I was hoping that we might be able to come to some sort of arrangement.” I said, keeping my voice calm, even though I was so nervous that my hands were shaking.

      “What kind of arrangement?” Axel asked roughly. “What is it that you want me to do?”

      “One of my master’s slaves is under ten years old. I want you to make it so that Ferriday doesn’t have to pay taxes for her.”

      “And how exactly do you, a blood-slave, intend to... persuade me to do this?” he was amused. I had feared that he would be angry, but it seemed like I had caught him in a good mood.

      I held up the emerald and his eyes brightened.

      “This once belonged to Mireille. Would it be enough to cover the tax?” 

      Axel’s eyes were greedy as he stared at the huge emerald. “Perhaps...but it is strange to be making deals with a human. What is your name?”

      “Danira Presquinn.”

      People usually commented on what unusual first and last names I had, but Axel didn’t bat an eyelid. Mum had told me once that the Presquinn surname dated back to the first Portal Keepers. I wondered what my ancestors would think about my bargaining with a vampire let alone my dating a vampire.

      “It’s strange making deals with a vampire.” I countered annoyed.

      He smirked and held out a hand. “I need a closer look at it before I decide.”

      Lifting my hands to the clasp to take the necklace off, I was surprised when Axel gave a strangled cry.

      “Don’t take it off.” his words were forced and his brilliant blue eyes had taken on a glassy appearance.

      I frowned confused. “But I thought that you wanted a closer look at it?”       “No... I can... I cannot take it as payment.”

      Suspicious, I dropped my hands back to my lap and Axel visibly relaxed. His eyes returned to normal and he shook his head. “I’m sorry, but I cannot accept that.”

      “But why not? I have nothing else I can offer you.” I begged. “Please take the necklace.”

      Axel silently shook his head and returned to his work. “Leave.”

      “There has to be something I can do...” I whispered as despair gnawed at me.

      Then it hit me. What did vampires crave above all else? Blood.

      But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t exchange blood just so that Ferriday had his taxes reduced, could I? What about Kelsey? I had to keep her safe and the only way to do that was by giving my blood away.

      “What if I gave you some of my blood?”

      Axel's head snapped up, hunger flashing in his eyes. “Your blood?” he repeated slowly.

      “Yes, if I let you drink some of my blood will you reduce the amount of tax that Ferriday has to pay?” I felt sick to my stomach.

      Axel licked his lips, his blue eyes fixed on my neck. “With your blood as payment,” he told me, gliding to my side so that were inches apart.

      “Give me your word.” I told him.

      I shuddered as Axel’s cool fingertips brushed my hair from my neck.

      His voice was strained. “I will reduce Ferriday’s taxes.”

      There was a flash of white but I moved aside before Axel could plunge his fangs into my neck.

      “Make it so that he doesn’t have to pay for Kelsey.” I ordered, not wanting him to reduce Ferriday’s taxes by only a few pieces of gold, which is probably what he had been planning to do.

      By now Axel was so overwhelmed by the thought of my blood that he nodded enthusiastically. I sighed and bent my neck, inviting him to feed. Closing my eyes I braced myself for the pain of fangs ripping my skin, and bit down hard on my lip when Axel sunk his fangs into me. He drew blood from my veins and I had to force myself not to struggle, reminding myself that I was doing it for Kelsey. I gripped the edge of the desk, applying so much pressure that it splintered. I was starting to worry that Axel wasn’t going to stop, but he did. Withdrawing his fangs he pushed me away and I weakly fell down onto the chair. He silently lifted up a fountain pen before writing something on a blank piece of parchment. I watched him with a hand pressed to my neck.

      “Here,” Axel handed me the sealed parchment which was addressed to Ferriday. “Give this to your master.” he licked his lips with his eyes locked on my neck.

      Flinching I stood up, not saying a word as I left the building.

      Once outside I pulled my hood up and mulled over what I had just done as I hurried back to Ferriday’s estate. I was disgusted with myself and tried to ignore the nausea that had lodged itself in my stomach. Trading my blood had been for a good reason, but I couldn’t deny that it had been cheap and dirty. No wonder I felt as though I had reached an all time low.

 

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